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Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



Introduction
In the USA (sorry, this will be a very US-centric thread), the world of mobile phones is controlled by the 4 major carriers: Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile. For years their system has been postpaid plans on 2-year contracts with the price of devices subsidized by extra padding in the price of plans.

But, let’s say...



You're po'? Have terrible credit? Can't sign a contract? All of the above?
Or maybe you're just tired of bein' enslaved to the Man and his 2-year contracts?

In the past, non-contract, prepaid plans existed but didn’t offer data for smartphones. But within the last 2 years or so smartphone options have begun to appear. And that’s what this thread is about.


General tips / advice
• If you’re planning to use an Android phone, seriously consider porting your phone number to Google Voice. Then you can send/receive texts and even make phone calls without using your text/voice allotments.
To make phone calls without using voice minutes: get the GrooVe IP Lite app (free) to make phone calls over Wifi, or get the GrooVe IP app ($5) to make calls over Wifi or 4G. Note that you will need a really good 4G connection to not sound like crap.

• Most of these prepaid operators are MVNOs. Basically that means they don’t own their own towers, instead they piggyback on the networks of big-name carriers such as AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile.

• These operators pay a cheap price for access to the big carriers’ mobile towers and pass the savings on to you, but the downside is that the big carriers prioritize this traffic at a lower priority. That increases the possibility of service outages and/or text messaging delays, etc.

• You won’t get the benefit of roaming onto other networks. For example, if your carrier is using Sprint towers, you won’t be able to roam onto Verizon’s network. That may mean a reduced coverage area, sometimes significantly so. Oh, and you can forget about roaming outside the USA.

• These plans frequently lack advanced features, such as call redirection/forwarding.

• Be ready for 'Unlimited' (with the quotes around it). Unlike carriers such as AT&T and Verizon, prepaid plans are often unlimited in that they don't charge additional fees once you go over some data cap. However, they'll throttle your speeds once you hit the secret cap, or in some cases tell you to take a hike completely (after all, you don’t have a contract with them).

• Coverage maps are sometimes horrible lies, so input your zip code to the shopping section of the websites. Generally they won't try to sell you a phone if you don't have real coverage.

• The prepaid market is vibrant, with a rainbow of different plans to choose from. To keep things simple, I’m going to assume goons want to use significant amounts of data, and therefore will only list plans which offer at least 250MB of data per month, at full 3G/4G speeds.

• If you don't understand some of the terminology used in this thread, consult the FAQ.


My God this OP is huge, just tell me what to do
If you have/want an iPhone, you should pretty much just read the Straight Talk (AT&T) section (though if you're willing to live with slower speeds it's also possible to get an iPhone on some CDMA brands such as Page Plus, Virgin Mobile USA, and Cricket Wireless).
If you crave an Android instead, your best bets are Straight Talk (AT&T), T-Mobile, and possibly Virgin Mobile USA.


The gritty details

On AT&T towers:


(click to check your coverage)

AT&T’s network is the 2nd largest in the USA. It’s a GSM/HSDPA network. They are beginning to roll out LTE service, but it’s not available to prepaid users.


Straight Talk (AT&T)


Straight Talk is another brand of the same company that does TracFone / Net10 / SIMple Mobile. They are a bit unique among these brands, selling service using a choice of any of the 4 big networks' towers.

Phones:
They sell one low-end Android Phone for use on AT&T's network, the ZTE Merit ($99).
You can also use any unlocked GSM phone which is compatible with AT&T’s frequencies. Note that this includes any unlocked (or AT&T-locked) iPhone! (except the Verizon-only iPhone).

Prefer Android? Google is selling the GSM/HSPA+ Galaxy Nexus on the Play store for $349 w/ warranty:
https://play.google.com/store/devic...laxy_nexus_hspa

Plans:
Monthly Price/Voice Minutes/Text Messages/Data Allowance
$45/Unlimited/Unlimited/Unlimited (get a warning text after about 1-2GB, potentially get cut off if you keep exceeding the cap)

How it works:
Either buy the ZTE Merit from their website, or, buy a GSM phone from wherever and buy an activation kit ($15) from http://www.straighttalksim.com/, then when you receive it activate it and configure your phone (Instructions, iPhone Instructions).
NOTE to iPhone users: you won't get MMS service unless you're willing to jailbreak.
EDIT: The above iPhone Instructions wiki link claims to have an MMS procedure that will work on the 4S without jailbreaking, if you have another non-AT&T SIM to swap with such as a T-Mobile prepaid SIM.
EDIT2: and this more complicated procedure claims to work on the iPhone 4 (non-S).

Be sure to order the correct sim size for your phone (i.e., for an iPhone 4/4S or a Nokia Windows Phone get a microSIM, otherwise get a standard SIM).

Summary:
This is the second cheapest option if you want to have an iPhone on a prepaid plan, and probably the best. It’s also a great choice for you Android fans, if you want AT&T’s coverage and/or a device which doesn’t support T-Mobile’s 3G frequencies.

Just remember not to use more than 1-2GB data per month. Or 100MB per day. People who did have reported getting angry phone calls and even being cut off completely.


H2O Wireless


AT&T towers, fixed data limits, and international calling rates.

Phones:
Any unlocked GSM phone which is compatible with AT&T’s frequencies, including a variety of Android phones (including the Galaxy Nexus) and (GSM) iPhones.

Plans:
Monthly Price/Voice Minutes/Text Messages/Data Allowance
$50/Unlimited/Unlimited/0.5GB
$60/Unlimited/Unlimited/2GB (Throttled after 0.5GB)

How it works:
Buy your phone from wherever. Buy an activation kit ($10) from https://www.h2owirelessnow.com/page...shop&category=W, then when you receive it activate it and configure your phone with their app.

Summary:
This is where you'd go if you need to roll on AT&T's towers and want to pay $50/month to have a definite data cap of 0.5GB, rather than a "so-called unlimited but maybe they tell me to go to hell because I streamed too many Justin Bieber videos" data cap.


Red Pocket Mobile


AT&T towers, fixed data limits, and international calling rates.

Phones:
Any unlocked GSM phone which is compatible with AT&T’s frequencies, including a variety of Android phones (including the Galaxy Nexus) and (GSM) iPhones.

Plans:
Monthly Price/Voice Minutes/Text Messages/Data Allowance
$50/Unlimited/Unlimited/0.25GB
$60/Unlimited/Unlimited/2GB

How it works:
Buy your phone from wherever. Buy an activation kit ($20) from http://goredpocket.com/buy/, then when you receive it activate it and configure your phone with their app.

Summary:
This is where you'd go if you need to roll on AT&T's towers and want to pay $60/month to have a definite data cap of 2GB, rather than a "so-called unlimited but maybe they tell me to go to hell because I streamed Rebecca Black's mega-hit 'Friday' too many times" data cap.


On T-Mobile towers:


(click to check your coverage)

Of the Big 4 US Carrier networks, T-Mobile is 4th. It’s a GSM/HSDPA network. Though a smaller network, where they do have coverage, it tends to be quite good. T-Mobile markets their HSDPA network as being 4G, and though it’s not as fast as 4G LTE, it’s probably the fastest you can get of all the choices listed here (yes, that includes Sprint's 4G WiMax).

Frequencies note: T-Mobile uses a set of frequencies known as Advanced Wireless Services (AWS), 1700/2100 MHz, for their 3G/4G service. Many GSM phones do NOT support these frequencies, including but not limited to the iPhone and most phones sold in Europe. T-Mobile is working on rolling out (much more common) 1900 MHz support but has not done so yet.


Straight Talk (T-Mobile)


Well as I mentioned Straight Talk also sells service on T-Mobile’s towers.

Phones:
Any unlocked GSM phone which is compatible with T-Mobile’s frequencies. Note that this includes high-end Google Nexus Android devices such as the Nexus S (i9020T) and the Galaxy Nexus.
Google is selling the GSM/HSPA+ Galaxy Nexus on the Play store for $349 w/ warranty:
https://play.google.com/store/devic...laxy_nexus_hspa

Plans:
Monthly Price/Voice Minutes/Text Messages/Data Allowance
$45/Unlimited/Unlimited/Unlimited (but don’t exceed about 1-2GB)

How it works:
Buy your phone from wherever. Buy an activation kit ($15) from http://www.straighttalksim.com/, then when you receive it activate it and configure your phone (Instructions).

Summary:
$45/month is a pretty reasonable price for unlimited talking and texting. This option is good for those who need to do a lot of those.


T-Mobile


Unlike Sprint, T-Mobile isn’t too proud to put their own name on prepaid service on their network.

Phones:
T-Mobile sells some of their phones (generally mid- and low-range ones) in retail boxes which include a prepaid service activation kit. Of these, the current recommendation seems to be the Samsung Galaxy Exhibit (formerly Exhibit II) 4G ($180).
You can also use any unlocked (or T-Mobile locked) GSM phone which is compatible with T-Mobile’s frequencies. Note that this includes high-end Google Nexus Android devices such as the Nexus S (i9020T) and the Galaxy Nexus (Google is selling the GSM/HSPA+ Galaxy Nexus on the Play store for $349 w/ warranty:
https://play.google.com/store/devic...laxy_nexus_hspa)

Plans:
Monthly Price/Voice Minutes/Text Messages/Data Allowance
$30/100/Unlimited/Unlimited (throttled after 5GB)
$60/Unlimited/Unlimited/Unlimited (throttled after 2GB)
$70/Unlimited/Unlimited/Unlimited (throttled after 5GB)

How it works:
Either buy a T-Mobile packaged prepaid phone, or buy your phone from wherever and buy an activation kit ($1) from http://prepaid-phones.t-mobile.com/...-Activation-Kit, then when you receive it activate it online or over the phone.
You can arrange for automatic payments or buy refill cards anywhere prepaid refill cards are sold.

Summary:
$30/month for unlimited texts and 5GB data is an amazing deal for anybody who either has such poor social skills they have no friends to call (i.e. goons), or is so young they don’t even understand the concept of using a phone to talk instead of texting.


On Sprint towers:


(click to check your coverage)

Sprint is the #3 carrier in the USA. Their network is based on EVDO/CDMA, much like Verizon. They also have two 4G networks, a WiMax network in collaboration with Clear on a crappy frequency which doesn't penetrate buildings well, and a 4G LTE network (not available via prepaid). They won’t put the Sprint brand on prepaid smartphone service but they own multiple prepaid brands and also sell their service through other brands.


Straight Talk (Sprint)


And as mentioned Straight Talk also sells service on Sprint’s towers. In addition to their website, they sell some Sprint Android phones at Wal-Mart stores.

Phones:
Historically, Straight Talk’s Android phones on Sprint have been low-end, nothing in particular we’d recommend. However, they recently added the higher-range LG Optimus Black ($329), so maybe that’s changing. Sadly, no 4G WiMax support to be found on anything here.

Plans:
Monthly Price/Voice Minutes/Text Messages/Data Allowance
$45/Unlimited/Unlimited/Unlimited (not throttled?)

How it works:
Buy a Straight Talk Android phone from their website or a Wal-Mart. All the Android phones they sell themselves (except the Samsung Galaxy Proclaim and the ZTE Merit) are on the Sprint network.

Summary:
This option used to seem better; now being on Sprint's network with only their 3G coverage doesn't seem so hot.


Boost Mobile


Boost Mobile is a Sprint brand, known for marketing to a young, “urban” audience (including such gimmicks as taking over an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force).

Phones:
Of the 3G phones, the least awful are probably the ZTE Warp($199) and the LG Marquee($249).
For 4G WiMax service, there's the HTC EVO Design 4G ($299) with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich).

Plans:
Monthly Price/Voice Minutes/Text Messages/Data Allowance
$55/Unlimited/Unlimited/Unlimited (not throttled?)
The plans are the same for both 3G and 4G WiMax service.
“Shrinkage” means they will reduce your monthly rate by $5 every 6 months as long as you pay your bill on time, down to $40/month after 18 months.

How it works:
Order a phone from a Boost Mobile dealer or their website.

Summary:
If you think you’ll need lots of voice minutes, and you’ll stick with it for more than 6 months, the “Shrinkage” feature might make this the service for you, especially if you like the looks of the EVO Design 4G.


Virgin Mobile USA


Another Sprint brand, Virgin Mobile USA was one of the first prepaid brands to offer reasonably-priced smartphone plans. Though it operates on Sprint’s towers, Virgin Mobile USA uses separate datacenters for data and texting, datacenters which have gone down a few times.

Phones:
DO NOT get the Samsung Intercept, it is a very very bad phone.
In fact you should probably just choose one of their two Android 4.0 phones:
If you can live with 3G there is the HTC One V ($199).
For 4G WiMax there is the HTC EVO V 4G ($299), a renamed EVO 3D featuring the Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) update.
You can buy the iPhone, but you will pay full retail price, and it will be locked to Virgin Mobile USA - you will NOT be able to use it internationally or on another American carrier.

Plans:
Monthly Price/Voice Minutes/Text Messages/Data Allowance
$35/300/Unlimited/Unlimited (throttled after 2.5GB) (4G not throttled?)
$45/1200/Unlimited/Unlimited (throttled after 2.5GB) (4G not throttled?)
$55/Unlimited/Unlimited/Unlimited (throttled after 2.5GB) (4G not throttled?)
The plans are the same for both 3G and 4G WiMax service.

How it works:
Order a phone from a Virgin Mobile dealer or their website.

Summary:
Virgin Mobile is one of the cheaper prepaid choices. They only have a few phones to choose from, but if you need a few more minutes than the T-Mobile 100 minutes plan, or if T-Mobile coverage sucks in your area, this could be a good choice, especially if you like the looks of the HTC EVO V 4G.


PrepaYd Wireless


Because Y Pay More. Their pun, not mine.

Phones:
Their 3G phones tend to be of the "low-end specs and a physical keyboard for texting" variety.
For 4G WiMax service, choices include the Samsung Conquer ($299) and HTC EVO Shift ($349), which has a slide-out keyboard.

Plans:
Monthly Price/Voice Minutes/Text Messages/Data Allowance
$50/Unlimited/Unlimited/Unlimited (3G only)
$60/Unlimited/Unlimited/Unlimited (3G and 4G WiMax services)

How it works:
Order a phone from their website.

Summary:
They were among the first to offer prepaid plans for Sprint WiMax service, but once Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA begin offering that service on 5/31 I think they'll need to change their phone/plan prices to stay competitive.


Ting
by Tucows

Yes that Tucows, the shareware download website. They've launched a super nerdy (they have at least one confirmed goon employee) prepaid brand on Sprint's network.

Phones:
They actually have a surprisingly high-end selection of Sprint's 4G phones, all the way up to the Samsung Galaxy SII ($485).

Plans:
Ting has a uniquely customizable system of plans; these are just a few examples.
Monthly Price/Voice Minutes/Text Messages/Data Allowance
$38/100/1000/1GB
$47/500/2000/1GB
$65/500/2000/2GB
The plans are the same for both 3G and 4G WiMax service.
You can add additional lines which use the same pool of minutes/texts/data for just $6/month each.

How it works:
Order a phone from their website.

Summary:
A very unique entry into the prepaid market and well worth a look. As far as I know the only prepaid brand with family / multi-line options.


Voyager Mobile


Like Straight Talk, but with 4G WiMax and a tiny bit cheaper. Literally operated by a college student and his buddies, this option is only available in 30 states (but the coverage is the full nationwide Sprint network).

Phones:
It's a seemingly random selection of Sprint phones, with the names not even changed.

Plans:
Monthly Price/Voice Minutes/Text Messages/Data Allowance
$39+tax/Unlimited/Unlimited/Unlimited
The plans are the same for both 3G and 4G WiMax service.

How it works:
Order a phone from their website.

Summary:
If you were thinking Sprint coverage, but need more minutes and/or some alternate phone choices to what Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA are offering, this might be worth a look if you're in one of the states where they've begun offering phones / service.


On Verizon towers:


(click to check your coverage - be sure to select prepaid option)

The Big Daddy #1 carrier in the USA, Verizon has the most subscribers and the largest coverage. Their network is based on EVDO/CDMA, and it basically covers every part of the continental United States that isn't a nuclear weapons proving ground. They also have a 4G LTE network, which they sure as hell are not letting any prepaid scrubs anywhere near.


Straight Talk (Verizon)


Straight Talk recently added a Verizon Android phone to their selection, meaning they now have service on all 4 major US carriers and can evolve their mew into a mewtwo.

Phones:
There is only one choice, the Samsung Galaxy Proclaim ($179). It's not a very remarkable choice. But, at least it's not running Froyo.

Plans:
Monthly Price/Voice Minutes/Text Messages/Data Allowance
$45/Unlimited/Unlimited/Unlimited (surely not really unlimited, best to stay under 1GB or so)

How it works:
Buy that specific phone (Samsung Galaxy Proclaim) from Straight Talk.

Summary:
If you are so remote that only Verizon has coverage, and you want a prepaid smartphone plan for less than $50/month, this is your only option. Remember to check your dosimeter regularly.


Page Plus


Page Plus is an odd duck, basically you reactivate a used Verizon phone and pay Page Plus for the service. They've been doing this for dumbphones for quite a while and just recently introduced a plan with data.

Phones:
Basically any Verizon 3G phone. Yes this includes the (Verizon-compatible) iPhones. It needs to be a Verizon phone. It needs to have a good ESN. It can't be a Verizon prepaid phone (yes, I really am saying you cannot activate a Verizon prepaid phone on this prepaid service on Verizon).

Plans:
Monthly Price/Voice Minutes/Text Messages/Data Allowance
$55/Unlimited/Unlimited/2GB

How it works:
As I understand it, you basically call Page Plus, enter some special codes on your phone, and hope it works.

Summary:
If you wanted to activate your used Droid 3 but didn't want to start a new service contract with Verizon, well, here you go.


On MetroPCS towers:


Next in line below the Big 4, MetroPCS operates the 5th largest network in the USA. It’s mostly 1xEVDO, that is, “2G”. Bizarrely, they have no 3G coverage at all; instead, they have started a 4G LTE deployment which is still small (shown on the map). Reportedly their 4G network rarely exceeds 3G speeds.


MetroPCS


MetroPCS has been aggressively advertising nationwide. So what do they have to offer?

Phones:
You have to be careful, because MetroPCS’s most heavily advertised phones are lower than low-end. We’re talking about Android phones with the screen resolution of a TI-83 calculator.
But the LG Connect 4G ($319) or LG Esteem ($319) might be worth a look.

Plans:
Monthly Price/Voice Minutes/Text Messages/Data Allowance
$40/Unlimited/Unlimited/0.1GB *
$50/Unlimited/Unlimited/1GB *
$60/Unlimited/Unlimited/Unlimited (includes either Rhapsody music service or MetroSTUDIO video on demand service)

* Data allowance is for “multimedia streaming”, you are not metered for “web”

How it works:
Order a phone from a MetroPCS dealer or their website.

Summary:
Definitely the strangest choice, with their no 3G and their plans that differentiate streaming data from other data. Ultimately I think other options on this page are better.


On US Cellular towers:


US Cellular is the 6th-largest network, operating mainly in the flyover states. Alltel was once an underdog nationwide contender until it was carved into tiny pieces by Verizon and AT&T in 2008. When their powers combine, you have U Prepaid.


U-Prepaid


Previously an Alltel prepaid brand, this has now been brought back to life.

Phones:
Sadly, the currently offered smartphones are very low-end. Perhaps not trying to undercut US Cellular too much? (US Cellular also offers prepaid billing, but at a premium price).

Plans:
Monthly Price/Voice Minutes/Text Messages/Data Allowance
$50/Unlimited/Unlimited/2GB

How it works:
Buy a U Prepaid phone from their website or a Wal-Mart.

Summary:
If the phone selection gets any better, this might be an option for those in the juicy center of the USA. As it is now I would hold off.


Other things that exist but I didn't bother to go into
• SIMple Mobile resells T-Mobile service, but their plans either throttle to terrible speeds ($40/month) or are no cheaper than T-Mobile themselves ($60/month).
• Cricket Wireless (a brand of Leap Wireless) used to have a tiny network (7th largest network in the USA), however in 2010 they made a deal with Sprint to use their towers, which brought their coverage up to acceptable levels. Too bad their phone choices and plans are still terrible. (edit: OK the iPhone isn't terrible but I'm still not putting Cricket Wireless back)
• AT&T Sells prepaid smartphone service on their network under the "GoPhone" brand, but the plans aren't very attractive ($75/Unlimited/Unlimited/1GB).
• Verizon Sells prepaid smartphone service on their network, but there's only one bad phone choice and the plans aren't very attractive ($80/Unlimited/Unlimited/1GB).



Finally, thanks mixitwithblop for being OP of the previous thread.

Rastor fucked around with this message at 23:37 on Jul 17, 2012

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Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



I've heard some good things about Page Plus, didn't know they were offering data now.

If their website starts working, I'll add them to the OP.


Edit: I looked into it and the 1GB data plan was originally a leap year promotion which has gotten extended past Feb. 29 but still may not last into 2013. The uncertainty of whether you will be able to continue to get a reasonable amount of data, combined with the trickiness of getting a smartphone activated on Page Plus, and the fact that they aren't price competitive, leads me to be a bit leery for now. So I won't be adding a Verizon/Page Plus Cellular section at this time.

If there starts to be reliable documentation of people activating androids on PPC and a promise of long-term support for a healthy data allowance, let me know and I'll reconsider that decision.

Edit 2: OK reconsidered, Page Plus is now in.

Rastor fucked around with this message at 16:33 on May 10, 2012

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



OK for those posting about how lovely the Triumph is, I edited the OP to warn people not to buy it.

delfin posted:

Anything sound off in the above?
One big one: When T-Mobile introduced the $30/5GB plan they put a big giant "NEW ACTIVATIONS ONLY" flag on it in the system.

So if you're a current customer you need to either
(A) Find a T-Mobile agent who is both willing to help you, and capable of working around the system,
or
(B) Give up your current account/phone number and do a new activation (as I said in the OP, porting your current phone number to Google Voice is a good option).

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



I'm on the T-Mobile plan in the Bay Area, and quite happy with it. The 4G drops out in some parts of the East Bay but overall coverage is good. Speeds about 6-8mbps, so not Verizon LTE, but more than acceptable.

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



Used Nexus S (be sure it has T-Mobile's frequencies) is really the only phone with your qualifications/requirements.

Porting to Google Voice, is basically as simple as "sign up for google voice, dummy". As with all number ports there is a pretty good chance you'll have missed/redirected things over the next 24 hours, so don't do it right before you need to apply for a job or something.

The only caveats/notes:
* Don't open the Messaging app for your texting, open the Google Voice app.
* By default Voice will send you SMS/email copies of your texts/voicemails, but if you have the Voice app installed you'll get notifications from that, so turn those options off to avoid double notification.
* T-Mobile's prepaid service doesn't support call redirection, so you can't redirect a declined call to Google Voice. For your call screening needs you can either press volume down to silence the ringer and ignore it until Google Voice goes to voicemail, or if you decline the call it will go to T-Mobile's voicemail.

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



No doubt those fees are included in there somewhere, but generally the listed price of the plan is the amount deducted from the funds in your prepaid account each month.

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



Oh, and note that in some cases prepaid plans define a "month" as exactly 30 days.

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



BlackFrost posted:

a buddy of mine is thinking of switching back to iPhone, and would be willing to sell his Nexus to me for cheap. He runs it on Verizon's network though, so I have no idea if I'd be able to get it to run on T-Mobile's services.


EDIT: Forgot Verizon doesn't use SIM cards. Nevermind.
Actually technically Verizon DOES use SIM cards now, so don't use that as a means to check compatibility.

The Verizon version does use different radio technology, and will only work on Verizon's network. You need a GSM/HSPA phone for T-Mobile, preferably one with support for the AWS frequencies.

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



No offense was intended, but my experience with this thread and the previous one is that goons are bargain hunters, and the US Cellular prepaid plans start at $60/month if you want to have more than 200MB data.

I've been thinking about maybe including US Cellular and Page Plus in the OP for the sake of completeness; is there a good argument OTHER than their coverage in the US midwest?

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



Cmdr. Shepard posted:

Basically I want the best phone possible, price isn't a factor really.
My personal opinion is always bet on Nexus, so my recommendation is the Galaxy Nexus.

quote:

edit - Does the TMo $30 plan include free nights and weekends, or just 100 minutes total?
No, with prepaid plans you get minutes, period, and they are deducted regardless of when you are using them. As noted in the OP, those with the combination of Android phone and Google Voice are able to make voice calls over Wifi (or 4G with paid version) using GrooVe IP. Also newer versions of Android support SIP so paying for a SIP provider may be another inexpensive option.

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



Cmdr. Shepard posted:

Is Tmo faux-G fast enough for groove ip?
It is if you've got a good connection. If you've only got 1-2 bars, or you're in a crowded area (so lots of other people sharing the tower), you better switch to making a standard phone call.

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



Sadly your summary sounds accurate. The GSM Galaxy Nexus has a pentaband radio which works on both AT&T and T-Mobile, but (almost) every phone that came before it would only get 3G on one or the other, including your Nexus S (GT-i9020T).

You could of course sell it and buy a Nexus S (GT-I9020A) which would get 3G on AT&T's network, assuming AT&T does in fact have 3G coverage in your area.

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



The problem is GrooVe IP is a hack on top of a hack, so there's some amount of overhead. Per the app developer you'll need to be able to reliably send/receive at least 1.2Mbps for good quality, which is much higher bandwidth than a GSM phone call.

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



Yes, on T-Mobile 3G/4G is the same thing, getting "4G speeds" is just a matter of whether your device supports faster HSDPA categories. And assuming you haven't exceeded the throttling limit, of course.

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



Well the first question would be how long your friend has been on Boost, because if it isn't long enough to have gotten some shrinkage then one of the other options in the OP might be better.

Unfortunately Boost phones are unlikely to get software updates, so they'll be stuck with whatever they come with, and that's currently Gingerbread or even Froyo. Most IYG regulars agree that Ice Cream Sandwich made big improvements to Android design and usability.

But, let's say your friend is 100% married to Boost, for one reason or another, and also refuses to wait to see if they get an Ice Cream Sandwich phone.

Of what Boost offers right now:
The Samsung Prevail runs Froyo, so that's right out.
The other Samsung options have awful low-resolution screens, so don't get one of those either.

It looks like that leaves the ZTE Warp and the LG Marquee, which at least have 480x800 screens.
http://www.phonearena.com/phones/co...hones/5693,6508
http://androidforums.com/zte-warp/4...quee-video.html

Hope that helps.

Rastor fucked around with this message at 22:01 on Apr 20, 2012

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



Hmm, I don't know that you'll be able to buy the SIM at a Wal-mart retail store, and this seems to back that up. Maybe your hotel or a US friend would be willing to receive mail for you?

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



None of the prepaid plans officially support tethering or hotspot features, no.

On the flip side, if you have for example a Nexus or modded Android phone which lets you enable tethering, you can generally use that without them noticing as long as you don't abuse it.

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



DrBouvenstein posted:

My big question is what happens to my phone number when I ditch Sprint? I have the GV integration, so my GV number IS my Sprint number...so will I still get to keep that and have perfect GV integration? Or will I have to get a new phone number, AND/OR new GV number and then pay the $$ to forward it?
According to this, Sprint's numbers belong to Sprint until you port them out, even if you have the Google Voice feature.

Blue Scream posted:

Just wondering if there's any reason to choose the $60/month T-Mobile plan over the $45/month Straight Talk plan? Both have unlimited talk/text/data (up to 1-2 GB).
The main difference here is that T-Mobile's plans are really unlimited, they throttle your speed when you go over the allowance but don't care how many total bytes you use. Straight Talk on the other hand has been known to text or even call people who start to use too much data, giving them "helpful tips" on how to not be such a data hog.

Basically, Straight Talk should be fine unless you plan to stream data to your phone all day long.

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



The Galaxy Nexus uses a standard SIM, just order the SIM from the OP.


MicroSIMs are for iPhones and Verizon LTE stuff.

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



I use Groove IP, but only for outbound calling. If I have a solid 4G connection it works fine, I tried once shortly after my flight landed when everyone whipped out their phones and that just wasn't happening with so many people sharing the tower.

If I needed to send/receive many phone calls with my phone, I wouldn't want to deal with it, I'd be looking at an unlimited voice minutes plan.

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



That does sound very odd, Naffer what's your source?

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



Mister Fister posted:

Stupid question, but for the T-mobile/Walmart $30 plan, can you also add the $100/1000 minute plan on top of that to add additional minutes to the paltry 100 minutes/month?
i think you are maybe confusing the plans with the prepaid account refills.

So the plan costs $30/month (30 days) which gives you unlimited texts and data (first 5GB unthrottled), and 100 minutes. Additional minutes cost $0.10 each, deducted from your account.

You put money into your prepaid account either with a credit card or a refill card, with the $100 refill cards being popular. So at $0.10/minute, a $100 refill is good for 1000 minutes.

If you actually used 1000 minutes in a month, you would have $30 + (900 * $0.10) = $120 deducted from your prepaid account. Which would mean you would have been better off with the $70/month unlimited minutes plan.

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



Straight Talk, on both, at $45/month. (Straight Talk sells both T-Mobile and AT&T service)

Technically SIMple mobile is less for unlimited on T-Mobile at $40/month, but they throttle speeds on that plan to less than 500kbps.

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



Mister Fister posted:

Ahhhhhhhh ok, drat that sucks, so i guess those 1000 minutes from the refill cards don't last a full year?
Well it's not 1000 minutes, it's $100, which can convert to minutes at a rate of $0.10/minute. Amounts deposited from $100 refill cards don't expire until one full year, but, if you're on a smartphone plan, you're having at least $30 for the plan deducted every 30 days, so obviously the $100 will run out before a year is up.

If it would make you happy, I guess you could add $30 to your prepaid balance with a credit/debit card every 30 days, and also add a $100 refill, and imagine that the $100 refill is 1000 minutes which are lasting for a year?


DEO3 posted:

1) At first glance a Galaxy Nexus with the $30 100-minute T-mobile plan seems like the best bang for your buck right now, especially if you're using Google Voice (though I don't really 'get' how this works exactly) instead of your minutes, is that right? Unfortunately for me T-Mobile's data map says there's only 3G available in my area, which according to the OP means Google Voice is a no-no for me, and unless that plan had unlimited mobile to mobile my wife and I would blow through those 100 minutes talking to each other during our evening commutes in like three days.
Definitely I would recommend a fast connection for the Google Voice "trick". If your voice minutes are primarily used with your wife and you don't mind awkward walkie-talkie style communication, I hear some good things about the blip.me app, but you would both need to have a smartphone for that.

quote:

2) Having never owned a smartphone before I really don't have any idea of how much data I'll be using, so the other cheapskate option - Straight Talk, might also not be a very good fit for me. I spend a lot of my day driving, and can see myself using navigation, streaming music, and listening to podcasts on a daily basis, surely that'd blow through the 1-2GB cap each month?
Navigation, email, etc. use negligible data. For podcasts you can probably find a wifi spot to download them before you hit the road. Streaming is what really sucks up data, if you are just nonstop on Pandora, Spotify, Hulu, Netflix, etc., that's where you might go over a line.

quote:

3) That'd leave the discount carriers, it doesn't sound like Virgin has any sexy phones at the moment (though the rumored One V seems decent?), I've heard MetroPCS is terrible in my area, I don't know anything about Boost, and then after that plans get too expensive for me to consider.

Does that about sum things up as they are right now? Any thoughts on which direction I should go? I still feel awfully lost.
As an extremely happy owner of a Galaxy Nexus, I'd feel sad turning anyone away from getting one, it really is that great.

As I mentioned up-page SIMple mobile has a plan which is less than Straight Talk for unlimited on T-Mobile at $40/month, but they throttle speeds on that plan to less than 500kbps. If there really is no 4G coverage in your area, that may not be that much of a throttle, but it's a shame to put any kind of bandwidth throttle on a super modern smartphone.

I think in your case, my best advice is to get the Straight Talk plan on T-Mobile. I'm sure if your data usage turns out to be heavy they will give you a chance to reign it in before cutting you off. It's the super-ultra-heavy tetherers etc. that they really don't want, normal smartphone usage in all likelyhood will not get you in any hot water, especially if you're not on AT&T's expensive network, and double especially if you can switch to Wifi at home/work.


Straker posted:

My phone is pretty much like a little computer to me, I could probably scrape by with 100 voice minutes/month. I want a really good phone and could wait another month or so if needed... am I missing anything (either upcoming phones or something much better available with a contract) or is the Galaxy Nexus + T-Mobile $30/month pretty much the best thing for me? I have decent credit, I could go back to a contract but don't really see any compelling reason to.
That's what I figured when I got my Galaxy Nexus and switched to the T-Mobile $30 plan, and I'm very pleased with my decision.

quote:

I think the prepaid = poor paradigm is really loving stupid. Let me think, $400 up front for a decent phone, or $100-200 in exchange for being gouged an extra $50/month for two years? Why are rich people renting their phones instead of just paying for them?
Definitely I think more and more people will start doing the same math. If this direct sale of an unlocked phone takes off it might really shake up the mobile game in the USA.

Rastor fucked around with this message at 23:05 on Apr 25, 2012

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



DEO3 posted:

Is there any reason I shouldn't use the Galaxy Nexus with Straight Talk on AT&T though if they offer better coverage in my area (4G vs 3G according to their websites)?
If AT&T has HSPA+ coverage in your area by all means go for it. Again, if you're not streaming all day and all of the night you'll probably be just fine.

DEO3 posted:

This is really how it should be for everyone, hopefully in a couple of years contracts will be a thing of the past, or at the very least you'll be able to get most phones unlocked.
Here's hoping.

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



Do you have any links to what you've been reading?

A lot of people do not realize that calls via Google Voice are still calls, unless you are using a special app such as GrooVe IP.

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



I think free incoming is much more common in Europe. In the USA we do have a lot of free nights/weekends/mobile-to-mobile type deals on contract plans, which again, do not apply on prepaid service.

On prepaid, a minute is a minute, whether incoming or outgoing, at any time of day, any day of the year.


Here's some interesting news:
Republic Wireless (Sprint towers, Unlimited, only $19/month but uses Wifi by default for calling and you agree to stay on Wifi as much of the time as possible) seems to be expanding to three more phones:

Entry Level: $199 gets a phone from an "unknown" manufacturer with a 3.5-inch touchscreen, 600MHz CPU, 0.5GB of storage and a 5-megapixel camera.
Mid-range: $299 will buy a handset from a "well known" manufacturer, 3.7-inch touchscreen, 1GHz CPU, 1GB storage, 5-megapixel camera and a VGA front-facing-camera.
Top Line: $499 gets you a 4.3-inch touchscreen phone with a 1.2Ghz dual-core CPU, 8GB storage and a 7-megapixel camera.

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



In other words, I can answer the question "Why Republic Wireless?" by quoting myself:

Rastor posted:

my experience with this thread and the previous one is that goons are bargain hunters,

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



Some phones have a lot of support in the modding community, some none at all. Nexus phones, for example, are designed to have community support and they do. I believe some of the Virgin Mobile USA phones have some mod support. You'd have to check out the popular modding sites like XDA to see how much discussion / custom roms seem to be happening for the specific phone you're interested in.

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



I haven't tried it, but it's an entry in their FAQ:

quote:

Will my Straight Talk phone work in Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Alaska?
Depending on the phone model, your phone will work in Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Alaska. Please click here and enter the zip code where you will be using your Straight Talk phone the most, to check for coverage.

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



That's because their Android phones (the ones they sell themselves) are on Sprint.

My advice, check the prepaid coverage on AT&T and T-Mobile's websites. Then get a Straight Talk SIM for the one with better coverage (I assume AT&T).

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



Zero VGS posted:

I'm thinking I'll finally bite the bullet and have the most expensive phone in the world on the most economical plan (T-Mo).
The catch in your brilliant plan is that T-Mobile's 3G/4G runs in the AWS frequencies, which most Euro phones don't support. When checking the specs of the phone you need UMTS 1700/2100 MHz support (both of them) otherwise you'll be stuck on 2G.

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



To support more frequencies both the radio chip and the antenna need to be designed to support it, it's not trivial; going as far as being "Pentaband" like the Galaxy Nexus is extremely rare. You can get coverage on AT&T in the USA and most of the rest of the world too without supporting the AWS bands so most manufacturers don't bother.

T-Mobile (and the Canadian carriers that use the AWS space) generally commission devices especially for themselves with AWS support, and this generally means giving up some other bands.

For example, take a look at the UMTS bands in this comparison between the Huawei Prism (T-Mobile only), HTC One S (T-Mobile world phone), and Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Pentaband).

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



850 and 1900 MHz means AT&T (as I said up-page T-Mobile uses 1700/2100 MHz).

I tried just now and both the "unlocked" option and the "AT&T compatible" option both lead to an "AT&T compatible SIM card" at checkout.

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



Some good T-Mobile news, they have officially announced their plans to launch 4G HSPA+ service in the 1900 MHz band "in a large number of markets" by the end of the year.

In other words lots more phones (including iPhones) will be able to get 4G on T-Mobile.

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



ilkhan posted:

Still going to be large areas that are 1700Mhz only. A 1900Mhz only phone is still not going to be viable, far as I can tell.
No way to know until they do the rollout, of course, but they did get a significant chunk of spectrum from AT&T. I'm staying positive for now.

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



Edit 2 version:
Today Sprint made official the new (WiMax) 4G phones for Virgin Mobile USA and Boost Mobile.

Virgin Mobile will get the HTC EVO 3D, renamed the HTC EVO V 4G.

Boost Mobile will get the HTC EVO Design 4G, now live on their website.

Both phones will come out on 5/31, will run Android 4.0 (with HTC Sense 3.6), and get WiMax 4G data. Even with 4G the plans/prices will remain the same.

Rastor fucked around with this message at 15:55 on May 8, 2012

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



Hmm is that what sense 3.6 looks like?




I'll update the OP when I get a chance and once the dust has settled on the specs and details, I think some stuff is still question marks.

Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



If you can allocate the $400 the Galaxy Nexus is the best choice. But anything with Android 4.0 is at least decent in my book.


Here's more specs and hands-ons of the new phones on Sprint's prepaid brands:

http://www.androidpolice.com/2012/0...g-respectively/

http://www.theverge.com/2012/5/8/30...st-photos-video

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Rastor
Jun 2, 2001



The HTC EVO V 4G and HTC EVO Design 4G will both be sold for $299.

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